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In the 50's, in Louisiana, the smart populist, manipulative and wolf hick Willie Stark is elected governor with the support of the lower social classes. He joins a team composed of his bodyguard and friend Sugar Boy; the journalist from an aristocratic family Jack Burden; the lobbyist Tiny Duffy; and his mistress Sadie Burke, to face the opposition of the upper classes. When the influent Judge Irwin supports a group of politicians in their request of impeachment, Stark assigns Jack to find some dirtiness along the life of Irwin, leading to a tragedy in the end. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
If there was one film in 2006 that suffered because of hype and rather uninformed critics, this would be it. First, the magazines played it up because of the all-star cast and fantastic source. Then, all of sudden, the nation's movie critics decided it wasn't what it was cracked up to be, and piled on it. One problem with the critics is that many of them clearly have not read the book. Richard Roeper complained in his newspaper review, for example, that the movie never shows you how Stark went from bad to good. Well, having reread the book in anticipation of the movie, I can state emphatically that that is because the book never explains it. Take your pick critics: is your criticism going to be that it's unfaithful or that it followed the book? Furthermore, the move is NOT a remake. The original All The King's Men movie, no matter how good it was, focused the story on Willie Stark. The real story (and this version) is focused on Jack Burden (which is why the whole backstory with Anne Stanton is thrown-in). To call it a remake shows how self-centered Hollywood can be (as fans of Brokeback Mountain are no doubt ruefully aware).
Now, what I thought of the actual movie: first and foremost, Sean Penn gives a absolutely brilliant performance, one of the best I've ever seen. I saw a Huey Long documentary a couple month before the movie, and Sean Penn evokes him magnificently. The scene where Willie Stark is stumping the state is simply film-making brilliance, as are his several hauntingly shot speeches. Jude Law gives a fine performance, as do all the supporting actors, especially Patricia Clarkson, who nails Sadie Burke. Some people had a problem with the accents, but I thought that Jude Law and Kate Winslet did adequate impressions and did not lose anything for it. And of course, the power of Warren's story shines through the whole movie. I do not personally know anyone who did not really like the movie.
Why did it not work with people? I'd say two reasons: first, first-person narrated classics are notoriously difficult to translate to film. Another example that comes to mind is The Great Gatsby, which has a similarly detached narrator, and did not succeed despite Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Karen Black and Sam Waterston among the ensemble. Second, to be brutally honest, if your favorite films are normally comedies or horror movies, you won't like this kind of movie.
All I can say is that I am surprised and somewhat astonished at the negative piling on. For any moviegoer who likes an epic story of humanity and politics in their harsh reality, All The King's Men is a must-see.
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